Friday, May 27, 2011

Marathon (A Parable)

There once was a man who had dreams of running. As a boy, he would run, of course. Boys must. But as things became more complicated, he ran less and less. Running was often not allowed. Running was sometimes considered cowardly. One couldn't run and do homework. One couldn't run and write out the bills. One couldn't run while changing babies' diapers. Sometimes, as a father, he ran two or three steps, but only in order to catch his toddlers as they stumbled.

As life became still more complicated, the man ran even less, until, eventually, he ran no more. Regardless, he still dreamed of running. One day, he thought, I will complete a marathon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Useless Ranters

"I just have to get things off of my chest," some people say. "When I have something to say, I just have to say it. I don't care what anyone thinks."

Translation: "I am completely egocentric."

Why do people feel justified in bragging about this awful tendency? When someone says something like this, I don't know what to say. Should I respond with a sarcasm-dripping: "Wow. Awesome. You're awesome"? Or, should I praise their obnoxiousness and pretend it amounts to courage? Personally, I think, if you are going to point that out about yourself, you might as well get T-shirts printed up that say: "Hello. I am an egocentric ass. And, what's worse, I am proud of it."

Monday, May 23, 2011


Can a fist fight be good? -- at least for self-understanding? I had one that was, I think.

I remember some scraps from boyhood, mostly while playing football with neighborhood friends. But there was one fight that I remember to this day because, in the middle of it, I became immediately aware of the significance of my thoughts. I was about ten.

It was fall and we were on a tree-lined field; our usual football arena. It was cold, getting close-up on winter. Everyone played the game hard, with that energy that kids radiate during their few hours of freedom under fall clouds and falling dark on a school night. 

The original "Rocky": Marciano
Something happened with an elbow -- he claimed it was mine -- and the other guy came after me, swinging maniacally.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Old Bicycle Shop

When I was a kid, when things hadn't yet gone mega-hyper-extreme everywhere you turned, we used to take our bikes, for repairs, to a small bike shop five minutes from the house. We'd bought our bikes there and we always had them fixed there.

When I would walk in with my dad, a forest of bikes seemed to go on forever, though there were probably only twenty in the whole place; it was about the size of a big living room. My dad would take care of the business with the mean lady and her mean husband who would both yell at me if I left fingerprints on the chrome, and I would wander around looking at the cool machines. Dad would pay, we'd leave, and I would go home and hop on my newly greased and tightened bike. It always felt like it went twice as fast as before.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Real/Un-Real World Wide Web

I will begin by saying I know nothing about economics, especially on a global scale. Apparently, this ignorance contributes to my slack-jawed, head-shaking amazement upon finding out that chaos theory applies to naked Frenchmen; for, it seems, just as a butterfly flapping its wings on a teensy hill in, say, Iowa, can, in an eventual and non-linear sense, cause a hurricane, it seems that a naked Frenchman chasing a maid through a hotel and (allegedly) sodomizing her could lead to a global financial snafu.

In case you haven't heard, I am referring to the case of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. As you might have guessed, I am not going to dig into the news, because in the rare cases I mention "what's going on" I tend to use it as a springboard for considering our human situation, in general. This case will be no different.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tragic Flaws and Eggshell Omelets

Last Friday, I wrote a piece called "Extra Lives" in which I proposed the idea that we all need to engage in activities that satisfy us -- activities that cater to the needs of the different elements of who we are: multidimensional beings of tremendous complexity. But when I thought back on it, it occurred to me that what I said could be seen superficially -- that it could seem like I am simply implying that we all need hobbies for stress relief.

I'm not talking about finding diversions. Diversions can be good for you, but they can also be dangerous. Too many years of diversions can set us up for a right cross from reality. For instance, finding an engrossing hobby can mean that while you spend every spare moment involved in that hobby, the rest of your life turns into a messy room you can't clean up without a front-end loader.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Extra Lives

One of the things I like to ponder from time to time, as you might have already gathered, is the question of why people wind up unhappy in life. I've presented a lot of possible reasons for this, but I was thinking, today, about the possibility that it may come down to not having enough lives to live.

In other words, we all tend to live various versions of our lives. In my case, the major breakdown is: dad, husband, musician, writer and teacher. These are almost presented in order of importance. "Dad" and "husband" are pretty interchangeable for the coveted number one spot, but necessity dictates that, while the little ones are little, they often need to be put first . . .

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Portrait of the Artists?

Many, many parents think their kids are geniuses. Some of them are right, some of them are dead-wrong and some of them work hard to deceive themselves that Einstein eats Cinnamon Toast Crunch at their breakfast table: "I know he fails everything, but I believe this happens because he is not challenged enough. So he needs to be in all the top classes, even though he has a test average of 6."

The bottom line is, we parents all want our kids to succeed and we tend to project possible glorious futures for them. I have my own opinions about my own kids, but I am not going to write a proud dad piece here. But I do think it is interesting that, for the first time with both of them, I saw real evidence that they might carry on in their dad's creative footsteps. (Let's face it -- I can't completely avoid the proud dad thing, here [puts thumbs behind suspenders; bounces up and down on toes].)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fabio and the Goose

In writing an article for When Falls the Coliseum last week, my often wayward brain had occasion to reference an event that occurred in 1999: the injury of legendary romance-novel cover model, Fabio. This, to me, was, at once, perhaps the most philosophically profound, the funniest and most ironic event in the history of the world (the injury of Fabio, not the publication of my article). Within this event lies all of the profundity of the questions of fate and Creation.

But, damn it, I can't seem to get anyone else to see it. In the attempt, I have annoyed the ones I love and estranged the ones who merely tolerate me. I have even caused a few people to move seats on the train.

Here's what happened:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Graffiti Girl

Yesterday, as I was driving home from work and enjoying the cool, sun-scented wind through the opened windows of my car, I saw a girl in the distance. She was standing at the base of a billboard. She was busy, but I couldn't tell what with.

As I got closer, I saw that she was a young woman, clad in pretty, young-womanly clothes -- summer clothes. Her feet were bare and her copper-red hair was long, copious and partially pulled back with a lime-green ribbon. She looked like the nicest girl in her class -- maybe an honors student; maybe the valedictorian.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The End of an Argument (A Dialogue)

Setting: An abandoned farmhouse.

At rise: Two men enter, sit at opposite sides of a table, upon old crates, and look at each other for a long time before speaking.

Man 1: What do you have to say, today?

Man 2: The same thing as yesterday.

Man 1: Then, don't bother.

Man 2: Why are we here, then?

Man 1: To talk again.

Man 2: To argue again. What do you think will happen?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Quenching of a Thought

Poets have been seeing and commenting on this sort of thing for centuries, so there's not a lot of originality forthcoming in this one. But, sometimes, you really see something and that moment tempers a thought like it's a red-hot sword being plunged into the smith's water barrel and that thought becomes yours, bright, sharp and at the ready for the rest of your life, no matter how small or how great it might be.

I'm not talking about a mere epiphany. Epiphanies can be forgotten about. This is something more permanent.